Art, Story, Mind

Session Date: 
Oct 24, 2020

The role of art in anthropogeny cannot be understood by using concepts from modern students of art, since art theory and art philosophy have moved a long way from anything that led to them. Our goal is to understand how those modern concepts arose in hominin and human evolution.

To investigate this, first, we need a definition of art which will encompass early examples and yet lead us to a definition we can recognise. Art is about a material intervention in relationships between people and the stories that define those relationships.

Second, what are the claims for art among modern apes, and indeed other modern animals, in the wild and in captivity. There is fascinatingly little evidence of the use of material in relationships among free-living apes, but, of course, we cannot engage in story telling with apes.

When we explore the archaeological record in search of such relationships, we uncover similarities and differences between what might be early art (which I call Art 3) and art now (which I call Art 1). Third, we will look at some examples of early art (Art 3) from the archaeological record.

Fourth, what are the implications of the first part of the talk for our understandings of what Art (Art 1) is and how it came to be? The point is that in all cases, art is embedded in culture and story-telling.

Finally, why do scenes make a difference to the way humans see the world? Once people started to represent scenes, the art could stand alone without the artist—it tells its own story—and observers could infer their own understanding. The art seems to have implicational meaning of its own.

File 2020_10_24_14_Davidson.mp4791.21 MB